Have you ever been curious what it would be like to take your motorcycle and hang a hard right from a two-lane blacktop to ride straight into the woods?
You might already be a dirt diva, and if you aren’t, you might want to be after this interview. At this year’s New York International Motorcycle Show, there was a special section called Adventure OUT! Alongside the manufacturers, gear and apparel, IMS set up a fun area to mimic state parks with artificial grass, picnic tables and a tent. They invited the ADV (Adventure Riding) wife and husband team, Amelia and Steve Kamrad, to host the space and spend the weekend presenting educational sessions on all things off-road related, from gear to finding local trails.
Amelia Kamrad first learned to ride nearly 9 years ago on a 1974 Honda CB550. After making the transition to dirt on a Suzuki DR200 in 2013, she immediately recognized that riding off-road was her passion. Amelia threw herself into building her skills and attending events to get as many off-road miles under her belt, alongside her husband Steve, as possible. Amelia purchased a 2011 Husaberg 390 FE in late 2015, and since then has ridden nearly 20 events across the East Coast each year, as well as out to Colorado, Utah and California. In November 2016, Amelia was profiled by [WLF] Enduro as their PROfile # 05, and in 2017 she joined three other adventure-related women on the REV’IT! ADV Women’s Team, helping to represent women riders tackling off-road challenges.
I caught up with Ameila Kamrad during her female-focused IMS presentation, a very well-attended get together for Women ADVers.
Woman Rider: How did you get into motorcycling and how old were you?
Amelia: The first time I was ever on a bike was in 2007. I had just met Steve and he had a 1974 CB550. He threw me on the back and we went for some glorious weekend rides. (There is nothing like being able to hug your man for hours at a time, and I’ll never say no to a two up ride with him because of that.) The next summer I realized that, while riding pillion was fun, I wanted in on the action of actually riding. My parents have always said that all my hobbies require helmets. This was true before motorcycling – starting at the age of seven I was VERY into horseback riding up until I left for college. Interestingly (maybe) I was into Eventing; my only interest in this discipline of horseback riding was because of the cross-country portion which involved galloping across country, working our way through a series of natural jumps (logs, stone walls, banks, etc) wearing the horseback equivalent of a flack jacket. I bring this up because I think there is something about ADV/dual-sport riding that fills the same part of my brain: encountering a variety of technical obstacles, working my way through them, experiencing a little bit of fear while trying to maintain an even “I can do this” attitude. What followed that initial decision to start riding were many hours in a parking lot mastering the clutch (which I later found out was the hardest, most beat up clutch I could probably have learned on). I was 22 at the time.
WR: What attracted you to ADV Touring specifically, over other types of riding?
I think I covered this a bit before, but really it’s the technical challenge. Being faced with things that require a great deal of mental focus, physical fitness and technique is something that I need in my life.
It’s also about the tribe – people who ride in this category (ADV and also dual-sport) are some of the best people I’ve ever met. You go to an event and they’re the first to offer help, laughs and beer. The people we’ve met at events (and we attend 20-plus a year) are our best friends. You’d be hard pressed to drop your bike and have to ever pick it up by yourself – that kind of people.
Many people buy ADV bikes and struggle to get them off-road because they write off the events that are out there for whatever reason (they don’t have the gear, or a buddy to go with, or they think it will be like some grown-up Boy Scout event), but these events are awesome. Like-minded people: check. Trails that are pre-ridden and legal: check. Sweep crews just in case someone breaks their bike: check. Cold beer at the end of the ride: check. The events get us all over the east coast experiencing so many different types of trails. My skills as a rider are what they are because I’m continuously experiencing new terrain, new conditions, riding with new people (many of which are way better riders than me so I can follow their lines!), and truly testing myself. Plus, I’d never be able to find as many legal trails by myself…and my entry fee usually supports a local riding group.
WR: How does a woman get started in ADV?
Find a bike that you’re comfortable on. You’ll end up hating ADV if you’re on a bike that 1) you can’t pick up, 2) you’re overly worried about damaging, or 3) you aren’t somewhat confident on. If it means buying a plated dirt bike, DO IT. If it means buying a beater bike that’s pre-scratched, DO IT. There is a belief in the ADV community that you have to have a big hulking bike to be part of the community and you have to ride to all of your events…but a significant proportion of the people furthering this belief are those who MIGHT get off-road once or twice a year. Yeah, it’s cool to load up your bike and hit the road (for the record I think it’s RAD and would love to do it), but not if that stops you from actually hitting dirt, or going riding at all. So get something you’re confident on. That doesn’t mean you have to be super comfortable; my bike is tall for me. Learning that I didn’t have to be able to have two feet on the ground at all times when stopped was huge for me and opened me up to being able to ride a bike that was a better fit for me in every other way. There’s a balance between confidence and comfort. Off-road riding is pushing your comfort zone while building your confidence.
Take a class. Having your significant other yell at you from a grassy field will only go so far. Take a class; there are SO MANY out there. I loved Bill Dragoo’s way of teaching at the MotoVermont training (he just has a way of phrasing things that I got) as well as the American Supercamp (you know all about this kind of fun), but there are so many other good ones. And use YouTube! There are some great videos out there by pros teaching you techniques that you can practice in a field. Clutch control! Balance! Figure eights! This stuff might sound boring, but before you can learn to pick a line you need to master the skills that will get you through that line.
Find other women! Up until recently I had never ridden with another woman before. Just meeting women through our dirt event (the precursor to Over and Out) [Editor’s note: She is referring to an event where the Author and she met.] and through the REV’IT! team has been amazing. Just being able to commiserate with other women is a relief – I’m not the only one who gets yelled at by my significant other for not using a ratchet strap fast enough! [Laughter] Adventure is Attitude is an amazing new campaign promoting confidence, a key piece in the off-road puzzle and in life in general. They’re really helping to promote female riders and create a network of women who can support each other.
WR: You mentioned in your presentation “You don’t need to quit your day job to be an ADV rider”. Can you elaborate on that?
Yeah! So a lot of people think ADV riding is the Ewan McGregor model; plan for a year, quit your job, ride around the world. But so many people are missing out on the smaller adventures close to home because they are trying to organize themselves for “big adventure.” They’re too busy working to save money for a year off work when there are events super close by where they might need to take a half-day on Friday for. Don’t let the marketing of big bikes with hard cases and a set of knobby tires tied onto the back trick you into thinking that riding trails two hours away from home is not an adventure (all of that is freaking awesome, I’m not hating on it, except for the misconception that you aren’t truly ADV riding if you’ve trailered to an event or if you aren’t doing a cross country trip). For the record, we’re all secretly plotting to do that round the world/round the country/whatever trip, but in the meantime, use what you’ve got and go on an adventure close to home. It will fuel your soul!
WR: What do you recommend men and partners do to encourage their women to ride? What should they NOT do?
Ah! So many men ask me how to get their wives into riding, but the desire needs to be there. Their wives will either WANT to get into it, or not. No shame on those who don’t and DON’T try to talk them into it. If there is any interest in getting off-road, get them into a course; this will teach them the basics in a controlled environment. The fear for a beginner is of what lies down the trail and whether or not they can handle it. I ride with a great group of men – every one of them has taught me something that I use in my riding every day – but there are some things they’ve never had to think about that affect my riding – smaller hands means different adjustments to my clutch. Lighter weight means a different physicality with riding. So there is a level of frustration when Steve tries to teach me something that I’m not picking up on…that’s why having someone else who teaches regularly can help so much because they’ve thought about the words required to communicate how to perform a task. Whereas a husband ends up shouting “JUST RIDE BETTER” across a parking lot….
Speaking of the fear of the unknown, when a woman has some of those beginner tasks under control, seek out trails that fit her ability. There is nothing more frustrating than getting stuck on a trail way above your head. Yeah, she might see it as a challenge to come back another day and tackle the trail, but just as likely is she’ll take a hit to her confidence that will set her back a few steps – not to mention possible injury….
You can follow Amelia Kamrad’s adventures on Instagram at @millieonthemove.
Do you ride ADV? Please share below.
I would love to get to know you and meet you on the road!
For the guys: do not buy your significant other a bike because you think she might like it. Let her pick the bike. So many times guys will buy their lady a bike and it’s just all wrong for her; too tall, too heavy, doesn’t fit her. If she wants to ride, help her find the right bike for her. It could be the start of a fun adventure for you both.
Deborah – Absolutely! Thank you for adding this comment. – Annick
Great to read stories about woman enjoying riding on dirt. Dirt is all about confidence and choosing the right bike is key. Amelia made a good point and it is a trap that I have once or twice fallen into. That is this notion that if you are not doing an overland trip for weeks, with all your spares and supplies hanging off every available space on your bike, that you are not having an adventure. A day out on the bike finding new dirt roads to explore is definitely an adventure.